January contains National Drug Facts Week, launched in 2010 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). To counteract the myths they get from the internet, TV, movies, music, or from friends, NIDA scientists want to teach teens what science teaches about drug abuse and addiction, and how drugs affect the brain, body and behavior.
We recognize National Drug Facts Week because about a third of high school seniors report using an illicit drug sometime in the past year; more than 10 percent report non-medical use of prescription painkillers; and more than 20 percent report smoking marijuana in the past month. Many teens are not aware of the risks to their health, to their success in school, and the dangers while driving under the influence. When teens are given the scientific facts about drugs, they can be better prepared to make good decisions for themselves and they can share this information with others.
Some examples of information teens may not know include:
· 1 in 11 people who use marijuana become addicted. Marijuana can affect learning and memory.
· Most people who start smoking in their teens become regular smokers before they are 18.
· In the U.S., about 5,000 people die each year from injuries caused by underage drinking, nearly 40 percent from car crashes.
· More than 4 in 10 people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become alcoholics.
· Meth users sometimes hallucinate that insects are creeping on top of or underneath their skin. The person will pick or scratch their skin, trying to get rid of the imaginary “crank bugs.” Soon their face and arms are covered with open sores that can get infected.
· Youth are getting bombarded with messages about drugs in songs and movies. In reviewing the most popular songs and movies in 2005, 1 in 3 songs and 3 in 4 rap songs said something about alcohol, tobacco, or drug use. Seven in 10 movies showed characters smoking. One in 3 movies showed people getting drunk.
· In 2007, prescription pain medications like Vicodin and OxyContin were involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
· Some teens abuse stimulants thinking it will improve their grades; in fact, it may do just the opposite. Abuse of prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall can also cause serious health problems, including panic attacks, seizures, and heart attacks.
· Mixing pills with other drugs or with alcohol dramatically increases the risk of death from accidental overdose.
· Repeated drug use can reset the brain’s pleasure meter, so that without the drug, people feel hopeless and sad. Eventually, everyday fun stuff like spending time with friends or playing with the dog doesn’t make the teen happy anymore.
We have a responsibility to protect our teens. Please talk to them early and often about the dangers of using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. These conversations could prevent addiction.
For more information, visit our website at www.drugfree steuben.org.